Measured Extravagance

2001-01-26 - 10:39 p.m.

It's mean. It's petty. It's irresistibly satisfying. From another expatriate native of Lubbock: "Go to Google and type in the words "dumb motherfucker". Look what's first..."

It always feels weird calling myself a native of Lubbock when I don't remember anything about the place, having been six months old when my parents moved on, but here in Dixie, where you're born is where you're from. So sayeth A Southern Belle Primer, Or Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be A Kappa Kappa Gamma, and that book is more true than funny. Take it from someone who pored over every last blessed sprig of baby's breath mentioned in The Richmond (KY) Register social pages during much of her adolescence. (I got over it - when it was time, the BYM and I chose to exchange our vows at the Ann Arbor Juvenile Probate Court.)

So I'm a native of Lubbock, even though I learned to talk in Minnesota and Massachusetts, endured grade school in Kentucky, and root with doomed fervor for the Chicago White Sox, even though it's been almost a decade since I was last in Comiskey Park. I've a business trip to the Windy City in a couple of weeks, and oh how I'm looking forward to it, especially after the glimpses I get from Jessamyn's journal.

I arrived in Nashville a little over a year ago, on Super Bowl Sunday. I do like it here, and I don't mind calling it "home", but I don't quite feel like I'm from here yet. This isn't a problem, it's a stage. I finally figured out that Ensworth doesn't connect with Harding Road no matter what any of the maps say. One of these months I'll get myself down to the Ryman. I bought veggies from the Hillsboro High PTA. I've been to the Flying Saucer and Obie's multiple times - which is more than some five-year-plus residents can claim - and the folks at Asahi and Koto recognize us as semi-regulars (we didn't even ask for the fried shrimp heads last time, they just brought 'em on over).

One of these years I'll be able to answer "where you from?" with "Nashville" without that hesitation of still-having-to-think-about-it.

* * *

There's more on being Southern over at Man From Murfreesboro's January 25 entry. I'm tempted to print it out and tuck it into my purse for the next time I find myself in another debate about the damn take-it-down-and-museum-it-already flag - a debate which, mind you, I don't actively seek out, but if you live down here it will eventually find you - I once ended up wrangling over history-as-we-understand-it with a pair of Pigeon Forge innkeepers when I had started out the morning with every intention of sticking to sweet innocuous chitchat over our eggs and bacon and grits.

Their main argument was that the War Between the States was fought over economics rather than slavery. Me, I still don't believe you can separate slavery from mid 19th century Southern economics, whether your daddy's grandaddy owned a plantation or not...but to be absolutely fair, these were intelligent, independent-minded people in so many other respects - driving home to me that not every supporter of the Stars and Bars is by definition an ignorant dumbass supremacist yokel. Ancestry creates some mighty fierce blind spots, it does.

See also Wendi and Scalzi on the subject - especially Wendi, because she's Georgian and changed her mind. (I'm listing Scalzi simply because I can't help admiring articulate over-the-top spleen: 'Every time I hear a white southerner talk about his "Southern Heritage," I want to take a torch and burn my way from Atlanta to the Atlantic Ocean.')

All of that said, it was a Brightleaf musing about the whole sorry brouhaha (by a African-American resident of South Carolina) that gave me one of my all-time favorite descriptions of a southern state: "Too small for a country, too large for an insane asylum." Which in turn calls up my colleague Matthew (a Charleston native)'s unforgettable observation that "Most Southern homes have Gone With the Wind and The Bible. I grew up in a houseful of women: Gone With the Wind was the Bible."

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